Energy Efficiency Headlines: July 2017

Energy Buzz

We know how time consuming it can be to keep up with energy industry news. To help you stay up-to-date, we scoured the headlines and summarized the latest industry happenings. Read on for snapshots of some of the biggest stories in energy efficiency.

California Powers Up

On August 21, a solar eclipse will cause California to lose almost 4,200 megawatts of solar power–enough to power 4.2 million homes. Though solar energy provides up to 40 percent of California’s power grid, officials say that utility customers should not experience outages during this time.

California Independent System Operator (ISO), a nonprofit that manages the state’s power grid, is prepared to ramp up output from other sources, including hydroelectricity and natural gas. Besides meeting increased demand on the grid, ISO also faces the challenge of properly timing the eclipse and implementing the alternative power sources at the appropriate time. Fortunately, ISO can look to Europe for insights; in 2015, Europe experienced a similar eclipse and maintained reliable power with no problems. 

Solar eclipse map

This rare event will cast a shadow over several states, including Oregon, Wyoming, and the Carolinas. 

Toyota Charges Forward

Toyota is hard at work on a new line of electric vehicles (EVs), aiming to begin sales in 2022. The line of cars will be powered by solid-state batteries, a relatively new technology that increases efficiency and reduces battery volatility. According to Reuters, the use of solid-state batteries could enable a car to charge completely in as little as two minutes. 

This move is Toyota’s attempt to close the gap with EV leaders like Nissan and Tesla. However, they face several challenges as they move ahead. Mass production of solid-state batteries will require extremely stringent quality control protocols. Additionally, sales will depend largely on battery costs for consumers. Other auto manufacturers are also looking into developing solid-state batteries, with mass production possible within 10 years. Regardless of this project’s outcome, it’s clear that EVs are gaining global traction as an alternative to traditional cars.

Social Cost of Carbon on the Rise

On July 27, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) voted 3-2 to increase the “social cost” of carbon dioxide emissions from power plants. The social cost refers to a measure, in dollars, of the damage done by a ton of carbon dioxide emissions over the course of a year.

Since the 1990s, Minnesota has been one of just a few states to quantify this figure. The new measure will raise the cost from the current range of $0.44 to $4.53 per short ton, to a range of $9.05 to $43.06 per short ton, by 2020. While some clean energy advocates were hoping for a larger increase, the energy efficiency community sees the decision as a big win. J. Drake Hamilton, Science Policy Director at Fresh Energy, stated “Minnesota adopted crucial updates that more accurately reflect the best science on the health and climate impacts of burning fossil fuels.”

Be sure to stay tuned for the next Energy Buzz!